What is the story related to mental health, suicide, and/or resilience that you’d like to share?
In March 2015, my life changed forever. I was walking by a boxing gym when my gut told me I needed to change something. It felt surreal. A few hours later, my parents called and asked me to bring something to their house. I thought it was weird, and I tried to call my brother to see if he knew what was up. He lived in Nebraska, and he wasn’t answering. I messaged his best friend to see if he’d seen him lately. I was told TJ went to see our grandparents. About halfway to my parents’ house, I realized that my brother died. That’s why I had to drive to see my parents before they would tell me what was going on. I arrived in Nisland, and my worst fears were confirmed. I sat on a step, sobbing. Not knowing what to do. Nobody was there to support us—we found out my brother died of suicide, but I had no additional support.
Fast forward to fall 2022. My brother would have turned 30 that September. I was struggling with my mental health due to postpartum hormones and grief. I checked in with my support system at work, got myself into my counselor, and worked through the process. Then, we lost a student that I worked with closely to suicide. That was hard. Lost&Found, the Front Porch Coalition, and so many others were there for our campus. A few weeks later, we had another loss. I didn’t know this student, but the loss still hurt. These events inspired me to change my dissertation topic. How can I help students feel supported? I’m going to find the answer and do that. My brother’s last words to me were in a letter, and he told me to do great things. I’ve decided those great things include helping others feel supported so nobody ever needs to feel as alone as I did when I learned of my brother’s death.
What resources have helped you to address this challenge?
I started with a counselor through an EAP (employee assistance program), then I worked with this person regularly outside of that assistance. Lost&Found provides a lot of training and resources about how to help build healthy coping skills, so I’ve slowly been implementing new strategies into my life.
Think about the system that affects our mental health in our society, including aspects of it that are damaging to mental health and aspects of the system that improve mental health. Based on your experience, how might we improve that system to build resilience and better address the mental health needs of ourselves, our loved ones, and our communities?
I think the biggest thing we can do is recognize that mental health is health. Someone suffering from anxiety, depression, PTSD, ADHD, etc. should be given the same grace as someone with the stomach flu. Just because others don’t see it, doesn’t mean it isn’t real. That mentality is the hardest thing to overcome, even within my own family sometimes.
What is one thing related to mental health, suicide, or resilience that you wish everyone could understand?
It’s okay to not be okay, but remember to ask for help when you need it.